Thursday, December 30, 2010

Zynga Games Have Taken Over My Life

It started out innocently enough.  An old high school friend of mine recounted to me the joy she got out of building her very own farm on Farmville.  I wasn't convinced, but figured I would give it a try.  I click the link on Facebook and pressed the little blue Allow button to install the application on my page.  I started setting up shop, or farm, as the case may be, right away.  They strategically allow you to burn through the first few levels of the game rather quickly.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In All Humility

It seems that not everyone understands me and feeling misunderstood is one of my great failings.  I am not to proud to admit it.  When I feel misunderstood, an almost panicky feeling washes over me and I feel compelled to defend myself to whomever (yes, even on the Internet) it is who has a misunderstanding about me.  In doing so, I sometimes come off as brash, condescending or hypocritical, as I doggedly defend myself, by displaying behavior that is less than stellar.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I never thought I'd feel this way about growing older

I was going to grow old gracefully.  I pictured myself looking younger than my years, dispensing sage advice, and in general making the whole process look (not to mention feel) painless.  That's how I pictured it anyway.  Enter reality.  While I still feel I look okay 'for my age', there really is no way to stop time and the havoc that hormones and gravity wreak on a person.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Love is Light

Love.  Love is the topic today; the attribute we hold up this week, the 4th week of the Advent Season.  One doesn't have to dig terribly deep in the bible to find examples of love.  Jesus was the embodiment of God's love for us, and there are many examples of that love, not the least of which was his death.  Jesus was the most compassionate, loving individual to ever live.  Emulating just a pinch of his love should be our main goal as Christians, his followers.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I've Got the Joy, Joy, Joy...Down in My Heart (3rd week of Advent)

Remember the song I've Got the Joy from Sunday school?  I loved singing that song and I still remember the childish joy I had in my heart when I thought about Jesus.  I knew for sure that it was Jesus who put that joy there and I was, well...joyful about it.  Now that I am an adult, joy doesn't come bubbling up in me unbiddingly, as it did when I was a child.  I still have the joy in my heart, and I am just as sure today that it is Jesus who placed it there as I was all those years ago, but the way I show it, and perhaps even feel it, differ greatly now than it did then.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Second Week of Advent- The Hope of the Age / Instrument of Peace

This week's Advent post [focus] is supposed to be about hope.  The problem is, I keep trying to get inspiration for a post on Hope and my mind keeps circling back to Peace.  I guess it's because at this time of year in particular, I think of Jesus, and when I think of Jesus the first thing that pops into my head is Prince of Peace. Jesus has so many different monikers assigned to him - Emmanuel, Messiah, Lamb of God, Savior, King of Kings... but I think my favorite is Prince of Peace.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Don't Take My Christ Out of Christmas

During this time of year there are inevitably blogs and articles galore about Christmas.  The commercialization of Christmas; the debate over whether to 'do' Santa or not; questions about whether to boycott Target on account of the fact that they stopped having Salvation Army bell ringers stationed outside their entrance-ways; articles setting us straight on the origins of Christmas; debates about the proper holiday greeting, etc., etc., etc.  There is endless debate going on about every aspect of Christmas.  Very controversial is Christmas.  Interestingly enough, the man whose birth

Thursday, December 9, 2010

First Sunday of Advent - Peace

I am already a week behind and I haven't even started yet!  I planned to write a blog a week for each of the symbolic qualities of Advent and I still plan just that.  It is just that I am now a week behind, so you will see two (hopefully) this week.  The first Sunday in the Advent Season, focuses on Peace, so without further ado, let us begin our discussion of Peace.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ridiculous Vintage Ads

I was updating my Cafemom profile the other day, and I Googled - Vintage Christmas Ads because I wanted some unique, kitschy graphics.  I did find some good ones, but along the way, I also found some really ridiculous and sometimes offensive ads.  I decided to share some of them with you here on my blog.


Friday, December 3, 2010

It's been one of those days

It is 9:00 am as I begin this entry, and it has already been 'one of those days', topping off 'one of those weeks'.  You know the type of day or week I am talking about.  The kind where the universe seems to have aligned against you for whatever reason and just about everything you lay your hands on turns sour.  We all have them.  Once in a while they are to be expected, I suppose.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The trouble with pre-lit Christmas trees...

Three years ago I replaced all three of my Christmas trees with pre-lit ones.  I was tired of spending hours sorting the branches by color, inserting them into the corresponding colored holes on the tree and then stringing the whole thing with lights.  I figured there was a better use for my drinking rum spiked egg-nog and hard cider as I bask in the glow of an easily assembled tree, for instance, so I set about finding just the right trees.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fear and Safety

I was fearful of a lot of things as a child. I am not sure why that was. I can't remember any specific events that led me to be fearful, but I was fearful nonetheless, for whatever reason. Heights; closed spaces; new things; talking to strangers; taking risks, the list goes on of all the things I was fearful of. I sometimes wonder how I managed to do much of anything considering how many things I was afraid of.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What is this world coming to?

I hear people of my generation speak often about the next generation.  What normally comes to their lips are things like - Kids today. They are so selfish. or I fear what the world is coming to with today's teenagers. They have such a sense of entitlement.  Words to that effect, anyway.  What I find most ironic about these statements is that they are spoken as if we have had nothing to do with bringing today's youth to where they are.  Is it not we who have raised them?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Duct (Duck) Tape to the Recsue

I am the queen of all that is green.  Reduce, reuse and recycle/re-purpose  is my life's mantra.  I never like to replace something that still has some life left in it.  It pains me to throw anything out.  I have a giant panic attack just thinking about contributing to the already overflowing landfill.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What is Your Dream Job?

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. ~Proverbs 16:3

I was reading a blog over at the other day where he finished with the question - What is your dream job?  This question really got me thinking.  I answered his question by commenting on the blog.  I relayed my dream of owning

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

We Aren't Raising Children, We Are Shaping Adults.

I have avoided posting details about my childhood here.  Mostly in deference to my parents, whom I do not wish to hurt by dredging up the pain of something they can't change.  I have decided to break that silence and post about it today.  I know without a doubt that they love me unconditionally and that they did the best possible job they could have under the circumstances.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's All About Me

Something sad is going on in our country.  And the recent election has driven this point home to me in a clear way.  The majority have spoken.  They are not happy with the way things are moving along in our current administration.  Things were not changing fast enough, or perhaps things were changing too much, so people voted in a way to make that clear.  This post is not about defending 'my' President or getting digs in at the other side.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Count Your Blessings

Okay, this first bit doesn't actually have anything to do with the topic at hand today, but I need to get that out there.  Wow, it has been more days than I anticipated since I have updated my blog.  Shame on me.  I made a commitment to myself when I wrote my last post that I would endeavor to write more often than I have been since school started back in August.  If I am to increase my readership, I have to, after all, give people something to read, right?  Makes sense to me.  Alas, life always seems to get in the way of creativity and thought, both of which I need time to do if I am to have something, hopefully thought-provoking, to write about.
 So bear with me as I try my darnedest to carve out more time to write so that you will have something to come here to read.

Now for the real post:

Every year, starting in November, we turn out thoughts toward thanksgiving.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Shameless Self-Promotion

I have been in therapy for the past seven months.  One of the things that drove me to therapy was my desire to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I have had many incarnations of Me in my adult life, from working at jobs I wasn't passionate about just to pay the bills, to being an isolate stay-at-home mom with infants and toddlers demanding all of my attention and then later being an avid-volunteer-for-everything-in-sight mom of elementary school kids.  I have, if not loved, at least found satisfaction in each stage of life and now it is time to move on to the next one.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

His Mercies are New Every Morning

One of the things I love best about my God is that his compassion and mercies are new every morning.  Every morning.  What a tremendous promise that is to me.  I often have to sit and just reflect on that (see Lamentations 3) and allow it to sink in.  Every morning I wake up and God’s mercy for me, and my failings, is new.  Not on-going and cumulative, but new.  The slate is sparkly clean every day, nothing from yesterday counts against me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bullies Suck

Sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt you.  We have all heard it, right?  What a crock of crap that is!  Words hurt.  Oftentimes the hurt is longer lasting than sticks and stones.  Physical wounds heal, but psychological wounds stick with us for a very long time.  Harsh words are especially lasting when spoken to a child.  Children struggle to find their identities and develop themselves, to find out where they belong in the world and harsh words, if repeated often enough, start to define a child.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Christian Example of Love - FAIL

The word sin, as used in the bible means - to miss the mark and this is what we are doing.  We are missing the mark, failing the first and greatest command that Jesus issued.  In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus clearly states that our duty to him, as his followers is to love.  That’s right; his command doesn’t come in the form of a Thou Shalt Not.  He does not waste a lot of time telling everyone what he or she should not do.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I'm In Love with Jesus

I know, I know, I write about music a lot.  Some of you are probably thinking - get a new subject, would ya!, but I can't help it.  I just find so much inspiration in music.  I wish I could write music, or even poetry, but alas, I have no talent for it.  I have a brother who is very talented in this arena and I admire that in him very much, but I have no musical abilities of my own.  

Monday, October 11, 2010

These are God's Words, Not Mine

I have nothing against fat people.  Really, I do not.  Some of my best friends are fat.  That does not mean I have to condone their lifestyle.  They should know how I feel about it and should avoid overeating in front of me.  Who cares if everyone else is enjoying a good meal in a restaurant?  Those people aren’t fat.  They are like me, so watching them enjoy their food is not repugnant to me.  Fat people should remember that they chose to be this way and they keep living a lifestyle that supports it (overeating, which equals gluttony).  

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What Makes a Song a Worship Song?

Singing praise to God is not a new idea.  I could recount verse after verse in Psalms alone that point us toward praising God in song.  We should be just as eager today to praise the Lord with our voices as David was in his time.  However, that doesn't mean we must sing in the same fashion as David did in order to properly praise God.  Neither does a song need to be slow, melodic or morose in order for us to feel the gravity of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.  Heck, we don't even know what David's praise music actually sounded like.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

These are a Few of My Favorite Books.

Almost every time I join a new Internet social network site, there is a space on the profile page to list my favorite books.  I guess it is for those who happen by my page to, perhaps, glean a bit of insight into my personality by reading this little tidbit.  I have to be honest with you, that question always stumps me to the point near paralyzing.  Why?  Because I have so many favorites that I fear leaving any of them out would be a huge oversight and almost an affront to the author of the books I leave off of my list.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Are Internet Friends Real Friends?

I was discussing this question with my teenager the other day.  My 14 year old son, was loading my new phone with my contacts from my old phone for me and he kept asking me - Who is this? and who is that? when he entered the names of people whom he had never met, yet took up a significant amount of space on my contact list.  I told him those were my Cafemom friends and he scoffed as he said "Those aren't real friends, mom". 

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Night with Tenth Avenue North

If you've read my blog before, or if you know me in real life, you have probably picked up on the fact that I love music.  Lots of different kinds of music strike my fancy, but my favorite, the music that really speaks to me, is Contemporary Christian music.  I just love to let the music roll over me and experience the meaning of the lyrics.  I feel a kinship with the song writers because I feel as if, at times, I could have written the same lyrics - would have IF I could, that is.  I am not good at poetry or music lyrics, my writing flows more in the prose category.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Captivated by God

Those who know me well know that I am a bit of a word nerd.  I love words and all the nuances of meaning that words hold for us.  I often am stuck on a word in a particular sentence or passage in a book, or perhaps I hear a word in a song and the word seems to take root and develop a life of its own.  It grows and becomes so overpowering in the sentence that I almost do not see anything expect the one word.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Can you really make money on-line?

Here is my experience thus far answering that question:
I was reading my October 1, 2010 issue of Woman's Day magazine today when I came across an article about making money on-line.  Some of their suggestions were selling - either items or talent.  I have a few ideas germinating along these lines, but I, being ever the pragmatist, decided I wasn't ready to put forth the effort to launch a real on-line business at this point and so I tabled that idea until which time I can give it my full attention.  

Friday, September 3, 2010

Music and Teenagers

I have been listening to a great deal of old music lately.  When I say old music, I am referring to music that was popular during my junior high and high school years (1977-1983) - you know, waaaay back then.  Seems like a really long time ago, but yet, when I hear the first chords of Bohemian Rhapsody or the first piano taps of Open Arms, I could swear it was just yesterday, so transported am I by the melodies of my teenage years.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dealing With Life Changes

This morning I dropped all four kids at school and I am alone now with my own thoughts.  The house is quiet and stillness surrounds me.  As I ponder my life, as I often do, the thing that keeps coming to my mind right at the moment is Change.  As a family, we have moved to a new chapter in our lives.  With our youngest going off to middle school this year, changes are bound to occur.  No more class parties, Field Days, student assemblies, field trips and the like to fill our (read: my) lives with.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I suppose everyone has insecurities and hang-ups about how they fit in with the rest of the world.  Well, maybe not everyone, but I would venture to guess a fair number of people have this issue, and I am in good company as one of them. Looking back, trying to unravel these feelings, I have to recall some not so wonderful events in my childhood.  I remember in first grade my mom not showing up for the parent/child luncheon at school.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Love It or Hate It. I can't Decide.

I have a love hate relationship with the Internet in general and with blogging in particular.  On the one hand, I love the freedom to gather information and write whatever I want to that blogging affords me.  I also like that other people can read what I write and give me feedback versus simply writing my thoughts down in a spiral notebook (of which I have many tucked away in various corners of my house) where no one will probably ever read what I have written.  I also enjoy connecting with new people and reconnecting with people from my past.  Those are a few of the positive aspects of being 'out there' in cyber-space. 

On the other hand are the negatives that I can't seem to shake to the extent that I could a few years, or even a few months ago, so I find myself reevaluating the usefulness of continuing to blog, which is essentially laying my heart and soul bare for others to view, dissect and discuss.  One of the most disturbing aspects is my feeling of irrelevance.  This is not a new feeling.  I have felt incidental in most settings all of my life.  Not hated or rejected so much as invisible.  No, it's not a new feeling, just a new setting for an old feeling; a feeling I would dearly love to put aside and never have to revisit.  I am not sure that the cold world of the Internet is the place to master this desire, however.  I think that by making myself vulnerable in my writing, by writing about such personal things, I have only exacerbated my feelings of insignificance because I can see that it's really not that important to anyone else.  I'm not that important to anyone else.  Except maybe someone who has an axe to grind with me, or someone who wants to find a reason to dislike me.  Those people seem to be the only ones clamoring to read what I write. 

I'm not here to throw a Pity Party or to make people take notice out of sympathy.  I am just stating how I am feeling about the whole blogging on the Internet thing.  When you think about it, who really does care about random, meandering ramblings from any isolated person on the Internet?  We are, most of us, random and isolated on the Internet, big place that it is.  I suppose there is the occasional stumble upon it encounter, but for the most part, what we write on the Internet is the same as what we write in our spiral notebooks and tuck inside our nightstand drawer, never to be seen by another soul.  Very few people are sought after in great numbers for their scrawled out pearls of wisdom.  For the rest of us, we must find a way to feel significant in spite of our obscurity.  I am finding, at the moment, this to be a daunting task.

I'm not sure where I am going with this piece.  I am just thinking out loud.  Well, typing out loud? I guess you could say.  I guess it doesn't much matter if I make a wonderful point or spew out an enlightening nugget of insight - no one is going to read it any way,  right?  So, I guess I will just end with, I have not decided yet whether I love or hate Internet blogging, but I have decided that it is worth pondering.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Justice and Mercy

I having been thinking a lot about justice and mercy lately.  On the surface justice and mercy seem dichotomic, that is to say, mutually exclusive or unable to coexist.  It is almost impossible to show mercy to a criminal, for instance, while still seeking justice for his crimes.  It is difficult for us to separate the act, or the crime, which we feel needs justice meted out, with the person, who made a human mistake and just needs mercy.  Our mind war over which is the better course to take, because we feel that neither will give us the feelings of closure that we seek.

This same battle goes on in our lives, as well as in the criminal justice system.  When someone has wronged us, hurt us in some way, we want to punish that person, make them pay for their crimes against us.  It seems only fitting that they should suffer, after all, they caused us injury and personal pain; justice is called for.  On the other hand, we can see that their actions were a mistake; their own painful past is what perhaps made them act in such a way, so we want to be merciful, forgive and forget.  Our minds and hearts rest on mercy for a moment and then, next thing we know, we are back to a place of just wanting that person to pay.  On and on the circle goes - justice and mercy, two sides of the coin, waging war inside of us.  It can be such a conflict that we become stuck in the cycle, unable to puzzle out the right way to react.  Neither justice nor mercy, in exclusion, leaves us feeling satisfied to lay the matter to rest, once and for all.

So it is with me.  I find myself in a place where justice and mercy are battling for victory in my mind (and heart) and I am stuck in the cycle.  As it is with most problems in my life, make that all problems in my life, the answer to my dilemma can be found in the life of Jesus.  Who better to learn a lesson from, than the man who showed mercy to the very people who crucified him, when most of us would have wanted severe justice to be served had we been in his position.

It's not that Jesus didn't have it in him to mete out justice.  He did that many times.  He told his followers, as well as the religious leaders around him of the consequences of their disobedience and/or non-belief.  He was very clear about the lines, where they were drawn and laid down rules about the justice that would be served to those who crossed those lines.  He had no problem following through with what needed to be done as a course of punishment.  And yet, he never failed to see the humanity within each person with whom he dealt, showing them his love and his mercy whenever they needed it.  I am in awe of how he did that, because for the life of me, I do not understand how it is possible.  I know it is, though, because Jesus never expected more of himself than he expected of his servants, so if he was able to achieve it, there is a way for us also to achieve.

I have to learn, how to achieve this goal of justice meeting mercy, if I am to grow, so I need to dig a bit deeper into this subject in order to gain some wisdom.  In so doing, I have come across this passage, the 23rd chapter of Matthew.  Jesus is talking to a crowd of people and he warns them not to do as the religious leaders do, that being, acting pompous and pious on the outside, while dull and merciless on the inside.  In verse 23 Jesus calls the leaders Blind Guides and admonishes them for straining out a gnat, all the while, swallowing a camel.  Yikes!  I think maybe he is telling us not to concentrate so much on the small things other people do, but to look at the big picture.  Not only that, but also to look at our own dirty hand whilst we're at it.  This is a lot to chew on.

When in conflict with others, there are always things we wish we had done differently.  Perhaps it is better to focus more on ourselves, and the things that we might have done better, than it is to focus on the other person and how they hurt us.  After all, the only things we control are our own actions and feelings.  It does no good to examine and revisit what someone else did and wish that it had been different, because, try as we may, we will never be able to even fully understand, much less change what they did.  We can only change ourselves; learn and grow our own insides. 

Along the way, we have to learn also how to marry justice and mercy in our own lives, by changing the things that are wrong, and then setting it aside after a while.  We can't live in a state of self-flagellation all the time.  There comes a time when we have to be merciful with ourselves, knowing that it was in our own humanity that we erred.  Nothing we ever do is irredeemable.  We have to give ourselves permission to forgive ourselves along with forgiving others; take the good that has been learned and leave the junk behind.  Yes, I have decided that justice and mercy can indeed live hand in hand in our lives.  It is a delicate balance, but it can be done.

Downhere - At War

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Taking Responsibility, Not Carrying the Guilt.

A person can only take on so much guilt before it becomes too much to bear.  It is hard sometimes to distinguish between personal responsibility and guilt.  I am willing to take personal responsibility for my actions and to take steps to change behavior that caused pain in the lives of those in my orbit, so that it doesn't happen again.  What I cannot do, is carry the guilt around with me, like an albatross.  There comes a time when I have to relinquish the guilt, knowing that I have done what I can.

This is hard for me.  I have always taken guilt upon myself and have a hard time doing things just because I need to, but, I am learning that it is okay to be selfish sometimes.  There is only so much I can do to insure that others aren't affected by my actions.  I can only sometimes predict how someone is going to react and I can never control their reactions.  I am only responsible for myself and doing what is right, for me, is often all I can do.  Now, this doesn't mean I have no responsibility beyond myself, it simply means that I can only control one person, and that is me.  If I have done something that hurts someone that I care about, I can control how I handle it, by apologizing and asking what I can do to help them recover, I cannot control what they do after that.  If they choose to hold a grudge, keep bringing the issue up again and again, or otherwise cannot see their way to forgiving me, then it is no longer on me.  It doesn't absolve me of my original guilt or make it as if I never did anything wrong, but I cannot keep reliving my guilt by taking on the pain of everyone around me and beyond.

I realize actions have a ripple effect and that I don't live in a vacuum.  What I do affects not only those in my inner circle, but also those close to those in my inner circle.  I understand that; but my understanding it doesn't mean I take upon myself  the guilt for all of it.  There is only so much I can do, and only so much I can take and at a certain point I have to say - enough.  I have reached that point at this moment.  Enough.  I have had enough.  Enough accusation.  Enough disapproval.  Enough admonishment.  Enough dressing down.  Just enough, already.  I will no longer be carrying it around; I am laying it down.

I would love to fix the hurt feelings of everyone I know, and everyone who knows everyone I know.  I would love to go back and change the past as well.  Would that I had had a crystal ball, to predict the outcome and full scope of personal involvement, of those around, to my actions, I would, possibly, have done things differently, but I didn't have a crystal ball of prediction.  And even if I could change how I did things, there is no guarantee things would have turned out differently, had I begun the process in a different manner.  What I did had to be done, there is no getting around that fact.  I had to choose self-preservation over saving face.  I had no choice; I could no longer maintain a friendship that had run its course.

In the end there are those who can't forgive me, will never see that my intentions were not malicious.  Selfish?  Perhaps.  But never malicious.  I understand there is sometimes a price to pay for any selfish, self-preserving act. Even knowing that, I can't say I am sorry for some of the outcome.  Often, trial by fire is the only way to refine our relationships.  During these stressful times we find out who survives the fires without reducing themselves to, what I perceive to be, petty, insulting, nasty behavior.  We find out who can remain steadfast, take responsibility, and ask for forgiveness when necessary, without degradation.  Those who don't survive the fire in quite such  admirable fashion; they have shown their mettle.  Do we really want to align ourselves with those who don't value the same things we value in a relationship?  I know I don't.  Understand this: that is not to say I don't regret losing some friendships, I do, I mourn the loss, but when it's all said and done, I need to form close relationships with people who live their lives in line with my own principles.

We all make mistakes, but it is what we do after we make the mistake that shows the world what we are genuinely made of.  I pray that I can redeem myself in the eyes of some, by the way that I live, how I interact, and by the way I make the most of a bad situation, learn from it, and move on into a life of peace and grace.  As for some others, I regret the loss, but I am afraid I will never live up to their expectations, so I absolve myself of the guilt I feel, having given up fighting for their approval.  I press on, hand in hand with those who still respect and love me without caveat.  It is to them, and to my God, that I answer.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Trusting My Instincts

I have not always trusted my instincts in various situations throughout my life.  I sometimes thought that trusting my instincts was somehow not using my brain.  Smart people use their brain when making decisions, right?  That sounds logical.  What I have found, however, is that life is not always logical.  There are twists, turns, corners we can't see around, and unexpected things that pop up on our life's road, that can't always be predicted by logic and planning.

Life is much like driving, actually, now that I think about it.  We learn to drive we are taught the basics of driving in driver's ed, we know the rules of the road the day we get that little card with our picture on it.  We set out on the road thinking we know quite a bit about what we are doing.  How naive we are, though.  Experience is really our best teacher and for that there is no quick-study course or shot-cut route.  We have to get out there and drive, day after day, learning how to navigate those things they can't teach you in a driving class.  There are blind spots, squirrels that dart in our path, people coming at us in the opposite direction too far over in our lane.  So many things that we knew might happen, we were taught to look out for these things, we even got on the road and drove a bit with other people helping us watch out for the unexpected, but nothing truly prepares us for being alone in the driver's seat with no one to point out potential hazards to us.  At some point we have to learn to do it all on our own, and we often make mistakes in those early days, especially if we don't trust our instincts. The rules are all well and good as a base, but if a squirrel darts in front of us, we instinctively go against the rules and swerve, maybe into the opposite lane, in order to avoid hitting it.

It is the same in our lives.  We have people, usually our parents or other mentors, teaching us the basics of life, the social dos and don'ts, the rules of good behavior, that kind of thing.  Our teachers even help us through relational problems, help us to navigate the unexpected things that are sure to happen in our lives.  As we grow, the allow us more and more road time so that we can get comfortable with making good decisions, but they still come along side of us to aid us in staying close to the center of the road.  Then one day we are on our own.  We often think we are pretty savvy too.  We might even think we know more than the people who taught us do.  We really are naive though, we don't have enough experience under our belt, so we should be really cautious and ever mindful of the pitfalls we may encounter.  We are sure to have an encounter with our own squirrel on the road, a person our instincts tell us to avoid.  If we do what instincts tell us to, we will swerve to go around him.  If we follow the rules of the road, which say to stay in the center of the lane, that is to say, make friends with him, as is socially acceptable, he is a nice squirrel after all, everyone else likes him, our instincts must be wrong, so we resist the urge to avoid.  We encounter the squirrel and it doesn't end pretty.  It never does.  It's not the squirrel's fault.  We should have trusted our instincts and avoided him all together.  It is unfortunate that in our naivete we hit a few squirrel both literally and figuratively in our journey through life.  It is the rare individual who avoids it all together.

Hopefully when we encounter these types of situations, when we are badly shaken having unintentionally injured someone, we can learn from them.  We can take away positive lessons and one of the most positive, most empowering lessons we can learn is to trust our own instincts.  They are usually right.  We should never allow others to sway us toward ignoring what we feel deep inside.  No matter how much evidence they provide to make their logical case, if our instincts say avoid, we should avoid.  It ends up being better for us all, in the end, if we do.  The squirrel scampers off to his den of friends who are just like him, and we continue on to our destination, arriving safely, without the shell-shock of having inadvertently annihilated a squirrel, and go on about our live.

Chalk up a bad experience to a lesson learned.  I will endeavor never again to ever go against my instincts when it comes to my encounters with others.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Summer Project.

One of them, anyway.  This project took me longer than I thought it would.  I admit I did move slowly, though.  I could have gotten it done more quickly if I had really focused.  At any rate, it is done now and I am pretty happy with the results.  The cost of this project was $12.00 for a quart of gloss white paint, $1.99 for the cherry rub-on appliques and $5 for a roll of shelf liner.  I made my own turquoise paint by mixing together the white paint I used for the base and some craft paint that I had on hand.  The handles and hinges I spray painted with paint that was already in my garage.  I probably wouldn't have purposely chosen pink for the handles, but that is what I had, and it does match the colors in my kitchen.  The cabinet itself was free.  My dad built it a few years ago out of some cabinets he had salvaged out of a neighbor's kitchen when they remodeled.  My parents used it in their laundry room for several years and passed it on to me once they no longer needed it.  I think it's not bad for a $19 cabinet. Now I have food storage in my kitchen, plus a sense of accomplishment at having finished this project.  Not to mention, it goes right along with my Reduce, Reuse and Recycle lifestyle.  And it's cute too.

This is the cabinet before:
 And here is the finished product:

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I have written several blogs about compassion, so bear with me here, I may repeat myself. I can't help it. I guess it keeps coming to my mind and my heart because compassion is so important to me. It is central to who I am. It is really hard for me to accept it when I see heartlessness and lack of compassion in the world.

 It just seems so wrong, and unfortunately I think it is indicative of the Me, Me, Me nature that so many Americans possess. It saddens me to encounter people who would kick a person when he is down, or ignore him all together, rather than help him simply because "It's not my problem that he made bad choices." I have to shake my head and wonder what makes someone feel so superior to his fellow man.

I know that the whole world is not Christian, but I am, so I look at every situation through that lens, so bear with me again as I use Christianity to illustrate my point. A superior attitude flies in the face of everything that Jesus stood for.

 There are numerous examples in scripture of Jesus' compassion for all people. Many times he warned his followers and religious leaders around him against piety and superior attitude. He demonstrated with his words and his actions that being his follower was about humility, not superiority. Why did Jesus do this? After all he was the Lord of Lords. The whole world belonged to him.

 Why should he care about people who just kept making bad choices? It wasn't his problem that the people of the city were about to stone a woman for adultery. She made a bad choice and committed a crime. The punishment was simply being carried out.

 So, why not just let justice prevail? It wasn't Jesus' problem that the people who came to hear him teach didn't bring anything to eat. They may have been just a bunch of beggars anyway. Everyone should work hard and then they would be able to feed themselves, right? So why not just let them go without? To teach us lessons, that's why he stepped in at those moments.

One of the main lessons we should take away from the life of Jesus is this: We are all a few bad choices away from doom. Doom can mean a lot of things; homelessness; welfare; addiction; poverty; death. We have no right to feel superior to any other human being on the planet because "There but for the grace of God, go I.".  Grace is something given to us that we do not deserve.

 Yes, we may be in better circumstances than our neighbor, because we were smart with our money; we went to college and got a good education. Our own choices, our stations in life, should not keep us from showing compassionate hearts towards those who didn't make the same choices. The fact that we are in a comfortable station in life simply means we were in the right place (figuratively) at the right time and made the right decision, or, dare I say, grace was extended to us at just the right moment.

Our lives could easily go the other way, and once we make one wrong choice it takes us farther from that right place, and it becomes harder and harder to make the good choices that would bring us back to where we ought to be, so we just keep drifting down the path of wrong choices. We need something dramatic to happen in order to turn our lives around at that point. It is not as easy as making one better choice. It is a process, and that process requires help and guidance in order to work through.

Help never comes in the form of condemnation. We can't be shamed into making our lives better. When we encounter disapproval and condemnation time and again, we start to think there is no use in trying to make our life better. People around us have told us in word and deed that we are worthless, so why bother? And the cycle continues. Generation after generation of people are deemed worthless by those who felt smug and happy with their own life choices.

Quite frankly, a lack of compassion makes me sick. Congratulations to anyone who has never made a bad choice in their life. Whoop-de-freaking-do. I think these people are the ones I feel sorry for. They go through life, hiding behind their masks of superiority, not deigning to touch the unclean rabble in the streets below their diploma and book lined offices, thinking that the check they wrote to the charity or the money they put in the offering plate at church means they are compassionate. They are not.

Compassion comes from humility. It comes from a place in our hearts that tells us that we are a few bad choices away from doom ourselves and that knowledge allows us to see inside the dirty beggar; the strung out addict; the welfare mom.

 Inside each of the them, beats a heart that only wants to be accepted as a human being; only craves a measure of compassion. Extending a little grace and showing a bit of compassion never hurt anyone and to deny compassion to others is to deny ourselves the joy of being the hands, feet and heart of Jesus in the world today. Why would we want to deny ourselves that opportunity?

~Matthew 9:35-37
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Am I Significant?

I want to matter. I want to be significant. I want to leave my mark on the world. Am alone in this wish? I think it is pretty universal. I think we all want our dash to mean something more than sheer existence. How to go about making that difference and how to figure out how wide a net to cast in our endeavors are what hangs most of us up. We flit from one activity to the next, get caught up in the busyness of life and for lack of time to actually figure out what to do to really matter in the world, we just coast through life. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that, but it sure sounds more fulfilling to hunt for and achieve our destiny; to make a difference.

Last month I was lucky enough to take a week off, be by myself, and focus on nothing but me. It was a wonderful time of reflection and healing. I feel like I made some discoveries, but I still have not found that little 'thing' I'm looking for, the thing that I really, truly love doing that I feel is worth sharing and making a difference while doing so. Well, that's not all together true. I know what I love to do, and in all humility, I think I have something worth sharing. How far I want to reach, and how big a leap of faith I am willing to take, are still unanswered questions.

I have felt God stirring me for quite some time. As a matter of fact, I remember feeling that stir as a teenager. I pushed it to the side though, because I had no confidence in myself, and I was busy making my own way in life. I never really stopped to think if I was doing what God wanted me to do. Now that I am older and a bit more sure of myself, and am a tad more discerning, I am starting to see the dots that have been placed on my life's page and I can imagine how they are all connecting to form a lovely picture. Even the detours I selfishly took along the way, can be shaped by God and become part of the picture.

Even though I can pretty clearly see the outline of the connected dots, the picture is far from finished. I still have plenty of work to do to truly see the pattern; it's still fuzzy around the edges, with some lines leading nowhere. I feel as though I am straining with all my might to bring it all into focus and I just can't quite make it clear. I admit, at times I get discouraged because things aren't clear, the aren't moving fast enough, or I reach a dead end, or I encounter a Negative Nelly. I am still not very patient, nor am I sure enough of myself to completely blow off mean comments and negative people. Oh, how I wish I were. What amazes me in this process, however, is that when I am experiencing times of discouragement, someone or something will invariably come along to prop me up. That is grace at work, right there, I believe.

Just the other night, I encountered a moment of grace and encouragement from a very dear friend, just at the right moment. She and I were chatting and she shared with me some of the most supportive words a person would ever want to hear from a friend. It really touched my heart, and it crystallized to me that I am significant, even if it is only in my small circle. I would love for that circle to open up and become larger, with branches going in all directions (remember the pretty picture I mentioned earlier?) but if it doesn't, I will be content with that. God can use me either way.

One of my favorite quotes, from whom I don't know, is this: Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet. I daresay he never will be, but I can see that he has added a few more clearly traceable lines to the picture recently. Ever hear the song You Can't Hurry Love? Well, you can't hurry God, either. He takes his own time and makes everything come together in his own way. Luckily, he does give us glimpses of the (sort of) finished product so that our discouragement doesn't become too great a burden for us to carry. I am still not sure what the long-term future holds, but for now, I just grab hold of those precious moments of encouragement and thank my God for the people whom he has placed in my path to give me the little boosts I need along the way. Hopefully, I can be the booster in someone else's life, as well, as they are trying to find their own significance. It's the most we can do for one another, I suppose.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers, for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel, from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he would began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 1:3-6

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It Takes Time to Raise a Child

I am a slow learner. Not in the educational sense, but in the school of life sense. It seems to take me quite a bit of time to learn life lessons that I thought I already knew. Funny to think back now at how smart I thought I was at 20 and even at 30. I was just a baby and I thought I was all grown up. Silly me. Some people may actually be as smart as they think they are at 20 and 30, but I have learned so much about life, myself and human nature in the fifteen years since I turned 30 that I wonder how I ever managed to keep a job, live on my own, get married and sustain any relationships during those years.

Maybe it took me a while to learn some of these lesson because I delayed having children until I was 30. Having children teaches us so many things, the list is too long to cover everything I in a short blog, so I will save some of that for another time, but suffice to say, I am not the same person I was before I had my children. They have forced me to confront so many issues that I had no desire to deal with. They have made me a better person, but I am not finished yet. I am still a work in progress.

Growing up all I ever wanted was to be was a mom. It was my deepest desire and longing. Blessedly, I was able to see that dream come true four-fold. These four people are the most important people I will ever form relationships with. I have been fortunate in that I am able to be a stay at home mom. Although my children don't fully understand the benefit of having me around all the time; in time they will. Motherhood is a serious exercise in delayed gratification. The things that we do for our children from giving birth to breastfeeding to taxiing them from activity to activity are all things that, although rewarding in a sense, we will only see the full benefits that grow out of those things at some later date. Yes, patience and delayed gratification are definitely life lessons we learn as moms. Whether we thought we needed a course in these subjects doesn't matter, we receive the lessons nonetheless.

At no time in my children's lives up until now have I known without a doubt that mothering is not for the faint of heart. Admittedly, those first years as a mom, when I was birthing a baby a year for four years were hard. They were exhausting and draining, but those years pale in comparison to what I am experiencing now - ten years down the road. At 15, 14. 12-½ and 10-½, to say that mothering them is a challenge is an understatement. It is hard. It will take all of everything I am and everything I have knowledge of to get me through these next few years.

Gone are the days when all four of them followed behind me like baby ducks following after their mom. They no longer hide behind my skirts and look to me for constant reassurance. No, they are stepping out on their own in four different directions. Now I am the one following behind them, anxiously looking to them for a sign or reassurance that they know what they are doing - ready to step in if they need me, but staying safely behind the line they have drawn in the sand. It is so important that they learn how to handle their own business, and yet I am still their mommy in my mind. I want to be the one to kiss the boo-boo and make life all sunshiney again, but that's not my role any more. I haven't graduated to spectator, but I am no longer the orchestrator either, it is difficult to define the role of mom to teens and tweens. Advocate for sure. Director at times, adviser other times, but always, always Mom. Mom should always be available to our kids, no matter what age. Mom should consistently be a soft place for any child to fall. This is a lesson I am in the midst of learning.

My two oldest boys (14 and 12-½) are teaching me this lesson, to be more flexible and driving home to me the reason for my being a mom in the first place - to be that soft place, the one person my child can always count on for nurturing and understanding. I wish I could say that I quickly learned this lesson as soon as my boys started to pull away from me. I wish I could say that I haven't gotten my feelings hurt and traded barbs with them when they have told me they didn't want to be seen with me. I would be lying if I said that, though, and lying never got anyone anywhere. I haven't always been patient, understanding and nurturing mom. In an effort to get them to appreciate and respect me more, I have pushed them back as hard as they have pushed me and in the process I have pushed them even farther away and given them reason to respect me less. Boy, do I regret that. It's time for a paradigm shift, I can't keep going on with this same set of reactions.

All of my children deserve the best mom in the world. Unfortunately for them, they are stuck with me. However, horrible as I may be at times, I am teachable. I know how to admit when I have made a mistake and pull from that mistake some valuable lessons. I think I have managed to learn this lesson in a timely manner. It is in no way too late to forge ahead and make my relationship with my children (especially these two boys) better. Again, I will have to follow their lead and be there for them when they need me and back off when they don't. I will be empathetic instead of reactionary when they don't want me around. I can't let my ego be hurt by a normal childhood response to mom's presence. I have to be a mother and not a smotherer. They need that. They deserve that.

Yes, delayed gratification is the overriding and most on-going theme of motherhood. I just hope I live long enough to reap all the rewards!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

When Thoughts Turn to Action

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." ~Matthew 25:44-46

This verse has to be one of the most convicting passages in the Bible. In fact, all of the most convicting passages are the scriptures written in red. As Christians, all important life lesson can be learned directly from the words and actions of Jesus Christ. I can't emphasize enough how, as Christians, we have to imitate Christ. There can be no other authority on right behavior in our lives. So many lessons to learn and only one life in which to learn them. I think I had better shake a leg and start putting some verbs in my sentences when it comes to living a life in imitation of Christ.

Verbs. Action. That is what Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25. He wanted his followers to actively help those less fortunate, those in need, outcasts. Jesus didn't simply say, feel bad for them, or to pray for them exclusively. No, he said to do something for them. This distinction is key to living our life as Jesus lived. He was not a passive observer, nor just a preacher, teacher or intercessory prayer warrior. He was out in the midst of the most chaotic events of his time. He touched people. Spoke to them. Gave them food. This was Jesus.

So many times, when tragic events, like death, job loss, serious illness, for instance, happen to those around us, we say to the hurting "Let me know if I can help.". While this is a nice gesture, it doesn't really have much of a tangible impact on those who need us. Likewise, when horrible natural disasters happen, we read about it and see pictures of it. We ache for those affected. We pray for them. We may even write about it, talk about it or otherwise get the word out that people are experiencing loss, but our empathy/sympathy for them doesn't go a long way towards giving them a bed to sleep on tonight or food to eat tomorrow. We have to step out of our own insular world and do something. Just like Jesus would were he here today.

Sometimes, all we can do is send money. Other times, we can roll up our sleeves and get to work. Either way we are doing something beyond ourselves and these actions tend to have a ripple effect. People see other people acting and they are more likely to act themselves and on and on it goes. It is poetry in motion, I say. And let me tell you this, any time I have put thoughts into action, pitched in and helped out, no matter what the cause, I have always come away with more blessings than I ever gave. At times I have felt almost selfish volunteering because it is so rewarding.

I am pretty sure Jesus knew how rewarding action was and I have a sneaking suspicion that he wanted to share that joy with his followers, those he called his friends, his brothers and sisters. When you find joy in an activity, don't you want to share it with your friends and have them experience it for themselves? I know I do. So, it is not only obedience that should drive us to put some verbs in our sentences next time we hear of something that stabs our hearts, but also the realization that out of pain can spring the joy of giving back. We trade that joy back and forth with those we help. It's what Jesus did. Isn't it the least that we can do in his name?

It's Only - Danny Gokey

Friday, May 7, 2010

PTA - Social Organization or Advocacy Group?

Pardon me today if my blog takes on somewhat of a defensive and/or angry tone, but I feel the need to be a tad forceful about this subject. The subject is PTA. I want to clear up a few misconceptions about this organization. First of all, PTA is not insignificant or unimportant, nor is it made up of a bunch of bored housewives who have nothing better to occupy their time besides selling wrapping paper, throwing parties and socializing amongst themselves. PTA is an organization of dedicated women and men who sacrifice many hours a year, year after year, for one reason and one reason only - children. We cherish not only our own children, but all children and we are one of their fiercest advocates. I say we here because I am a PTA member. I was honored as a state PTA Lifetime Member several years ago and it is one of my proudest accomplishments. Let me tell you why.

PTA has a long history of advocating for children. As a matter of fact, it is the largest volunteer organization actively advocating for children. This is an organization that does not simply sit on its hands and complain about what is wrong with the public education system in this country. To the contrary, PTA is directly involved in lobbying not only at local and state levels, but also at the national level. There are thousands of men and women, nationwide, pounding the pavement to exact change in legislation regarding myriad educational issues. Issues that impact children of all ages, races and income levels. PTA is there for every child. Those fees we pay to join the PTA goe toward those efforts. I don't complain about having to join three different PTAs in the same school district, (my kids are in elementary, middle and high school) because I know that those paltry dues are gathered and together with other monies are used in for great cause - one that I believe in. One that I believe does make a difference in the grand scheme of things.

At first glance it may seem that your local PTA is simply there to ask you for donations, hound you to volunteer and otherwise pester you, and we are, but, it is so much more than that. Let me just tell you just a few of the things that we do behind the scenes that you may not know about; what we do with all that money you donate. We bring fun, yet educational programs into the school. We provide supplemental monetary support for field trips not fully paid for by the school district. We donate books, both to the school library and to individual classroom libraries. We organize events that are designed not only to raise money for programs and such, but also to foster a sense of community among staff, parents and children. These events are staffed entirely by volunteers who dedicate countless hours because they care deeply about the community and the children. Local PTA also steps in when financial crises occur within our school family, providing school supplies, backpacks, spirit wear and other items to children in need. It is important to us that all children have an equal chance at success in school regardless of financial status.

Probably the most important, and certainly the most rewarding, thing we do as a local PTA is volunteer inside school. I have been an active PTA member for going on 11 years now and I have received many more blessings than I have ever given during my hours spent at the schools each week. Children seem to sense that you care about them when they see you around all the time. I have formed bonds with all sorts of children over the years and those bonds are special to me, to say the least. I know that I have made a difference, no matter how small; I have touched the lives of children and that makes me proud. Proud, not in a boastful way, but proud to be a part of something bigger than myself. One need only to go to a State (or National) Convention to understand the smallness of what an individual does compared to the bigger picture of the organization, but the sense of pride and community you get knowing you are but a small part of it is something that has to be experienced in order to be fully understood.

So, for all of those who believe that in the grand scheme of life, PTA is some triviality, scoff if you will, but you are dead wrong. PTA is not trivial; it is a strong, healthy force working diligently to make a successful educational community for every child in America. What bigger contribution is there than in the educational success of our nations children? Our future depends on it. And I, for one, will hold my head high as a proud member of this great PTA team.

Monday, May 3, 2010

No one ever said it was going to be easy.

Whenever there is conflict our lives it is fitting for us all to take stock in the situation at hand. We have to look at things objectively, ask ourselves some hard questions and try to learn something in the aftermath of what can only be seen, at first glance, as devastation. Asking ourselves these hard questions is...well...hard. It is often difficult to know where to begin, or even what questions to ask ourselves. It can seem so much easier to tell ourselves that the other person is the one with the problem, that way we can continue to ignore our own issues and put them off on others. After a while of doing this, we begin to think that there are a lot of messed up people in the world and wonder how we, the only sane humans around, keep running into all these crazies. It become easier and easier to apply blame to the crazies and bury our own issues deeper and deeper.

Well, I for one, don't want to be that person. I don't want to bury my head in the sand and pretend I have no problems. I know full well that I do have problems, so who would I be kidding? I may be able to fool some of the people some of the time, but I see no long term benefit from that kind of behavior. So, it is with this in mind, that I have remained here these past few days and pondered. I have asked myself the hard questions. Did I do enough? Could I have stopped it? What could I have done differently? Did I act in a mature manner or did I act in haste? Is my conscience clear? Answering these questions requires me to be brutally honest with myself. I can't shy away from it, or I risk becoming stuck in denial.

I have gone over and over some things in my mind and while I know that I am far from perfect, my conscience is clear. I did enough. It was not my responsibility to stop it or resolve it; I can't always be the grease that keeps the wheel running smoothly. Sure, things could always be done differently, but that doesn't mean that the outcome will be different and it is no guarantee that other problems won't pop up as a result. My actions, though not always seen as such, were done out of compassion, in truth and with deliberate consideration for all involved. Yes, I can say I have a clear conscience, but that doesn't mean the discomfort ends, nor does it mean that I can avoid working through the difficult feelings conflict stirs inside of me.

One thing I have learned over the past year, through a couple of different trying situations, is that I have changed. I am no longer the yes-person I once was. I no longer choose the feelings and avoid the reactions of others in deference to my own. I don't go along to get along like I used to. In addition, I no longer pick up the slack when it is not my job. This shift in my focus has not been comfortable for everyone. Some have seen it as selfish and cold. It took me a while to realize that the people who have viewed it as selfish and cold were the ones who had benefited the most from my former way of dealing with problems. These people were the ones I continually gave in to. They were the ones whose slack I used to pick up. The statement "You teach people how to treat you." comes to mind.

I have found that the friends worth keeping around are those who don't expect me to agree with them all the time. These are the same people on whom I depend to tell me the hard and honest truth about myself when need be. That is what real relationships look like. Real, grown up relationships have to be grounded in honesty and mutual respect. In adult life we get upset sometimes. People don't always agree with us. We can't take it personally. We have to learn to work through conflicts in a way that both parties come away with some dignity.

Sadly, I have come to realize that there are people out there who are simply not ready for real, honest, grown up relationships. They aren't ready to take responsibility for their own actions. They would rather shut down and/or trade barbs. They would rather surround themselves with people who support their habit of deflection and play into the state of denial in which they live. I don't play that game. I left the sandbox many, many years ago and I have no desire to get my feet dirty any time soon. I'm too old for that kind of thing. I have choices and I choose honesty, maturity and respect. If that leaves some people behind, then I mourn the loss, but I press on.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Using your gifts in volunteerism

This is a re-post of a journal I originally wrote 10/08/09 and posted on Cafemom. I stand by my position as much today as I did 7 months ago and feel that this is a prudent time to revisit the subject.

I have been thinking a great deal about volunteerism and the use of our personal gifts lately. I volunteer quite a bit and often wrestle with whether or not to take on a volunteer opportunity. When I first started volunteering on a regular basis, I would pretty much say yes to everything and then I would find myself burned out and resentful rather quickly. Over the years I have learned that it simply makes for a smoother ride for all involved if I limit myself to jobs that I am really good at. It just makes so much more sense. I also never realized that in my eagerness to jump in with both feet that I was hindering others from realizing their full potential as part of the group. This realization brought me up short.

We are all gifted in different ways. I am going to use my Christian perspective here, but I believe this message is relevant to everyone, no matter what your faith base. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-28 we are told that everyone has a different, unique gift and that we should use that gift in alliance with one another. This passage also uses the body as analogy to show us the significance of each part. No matter how small or large, each part, when working correctly, makes its contribution to the smooth operation of the body as a whole. So it is with people. In a group, every person has a significant role in the group. Whether it be large or small, each member must pull their own weight or the group will fall apart.

To add to this analogy, I would like to offer this - not only does every part of the body have to be in proper working order, each part has its own unique role and shouldn't take over the function of another part. If it does, then the part being taken over dies away. For example, take a person with a particular problem with his left eye in which his eye is not communicating with the brain and therefore the affected person cannot see very well out of the left eye (amblyopia). It is not that the eye lacks the capacity to see, it simply lacks the brain recognition necessary for sight. Over time the right eye takes on more and more of the seeing power, the left eye get weaker and weaker until it finally stops functioning all together. This in essence renders the person blind in the left eye. The right eye sees most things well enough, the person is able to function well for the most part, but he is still blind in that left eye and the right eye is being strained beyond its capabilities. His body not functioning at maximum levels.

This situation can be avoided all together if the doctor places a patch over the stronger right eye of his patient, thus forcing the left eye to increase its development of communicating to the brain. If all goes well at the end of such treatment, the patient most likely will be able to see clearly through both eyes. At this point, the body is working as it should; all parts are pulling their own weight and everything is in balance.

I have seen this scenario played out many times in various volunteer organization. We are so passionate about the organization itself, we are willing to do whatever is necessary to keep the group running, even if the job we take on is not in an area which we are gifted. For a while the organization will operate well, but after a while the strain of overwork will cause problems for us. What we also don't realize we have done in our zeal is that we have taken away an opportunity from someone who is actually gifted in this particular area to serve the organization. Pretty soon that person becomes discouraged at not being used and stops working completely. Then we find ourselves in a really bad position; the whole organization is limping along instead of racing to the finish line because everyone lacks direction and motivation. It is time to regroup, but we have lost valuable time spinning our wheels doing work for which we are not suited and caused others to feel frustrated at not being able to do what they do best.

It is easy to stay motivated when we are doing something for which we have a talent. When everyone is working toward the same goal, in various roles for which they have a gift, then the group really shines. So, we really have to be careful in our areas of service to be cognizant of not only the goal, but also our position in helping that goal blossom. We want the organization to have unity and strength and this comes when all people involved are working the way that is right for them. Then we really don't have to worry about the rest of the group and we are free to focus on our own activity. We should never allow our own motivation to take over the opportunity for someone else to serve. When we are all using our gifts, then no one feels overworked and no one feels under-appreciated or unfulfilled. We end up with a group in which our goals are accomplished and everyone is a winner.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sometimes Just Showing Up is the Hardest Part

Did you ever have one of those days where you oversleep and instead of feeling rested after having that extra hour of sleep, you feel a step behind from where you need to be the whole day? Well, that was my day yesterday. It was a solid day of forgetting to make lunches, rushing to appointments, questioning my actions, hard decisions, mommy guilt and just plain chaos. I was feeling weary and beat by the time I finally went to bed, ready to just give up, in fact. It certainly wasn't a perfect day by any stretch of the imagination.

My imperfect day got me to thinking about my relationship with God, and how I often feel a step behind the place I need to be in that relationship as well as in my life. I am constantly forgetting things that should be routine, rushing to get to the next lesson, second guessing myself, battling with guilt for not seeing/doing what I should have, feel plain chaotic inside and out. Will I ever get it right? Is God getting exasperated with me? Is God happy with what I am doing with my life? These are questions that are on my mind continuously.

Luckily for me, God doesn't require perfection. All he asks is that I show up. And to keep showing, day after day, after day. It really is that simple. And that difficult. Some days I don't want to show up. Some days I don't want to go by God's pray-for-your-enemy rules. Some days I don't love those people who oppose me and I don't even want to try. Some days I don't have compassion for people who make the same mistakes over and over again and I don't feel like loving them like Jesus would. I want to throw up my hands in frustration and turn a cold shoulder to them. Yes, some days it would be easier not to show up. Because once I show up, I am required to obey God's word.

Colossians 3:12 says that as a Christian, we are to clothe ourselves in compassion, kindness, gentleness, humility and patience. Further on, in that same chapter of Colossians, in verse 13 and 14 it is written that we should forgive others, bear with one another. Over all of this we are to put on love, like a cozy warm coat that protects all of the other things from getting frostbitten when we expose ourselves to others. Notice in verse 12 it says that we have to wrap ourselves in these things so that others can see them just by observing us. Our actions speak much louder than our words. We can quote scripture and tell bible stories all day long to everyone we meet, but if they can't see the manifestation of these attributes, covered in love, in our actions, what good are we to the Kingdom of God?

The lessons that I see in scripture always come back to love one way or another. I know that there are those who do not believe that God (and Jesus) is only about love, but I believe that in the most fundamental way, he is. Even in his justice he is loving. This gives me great comfort to know that God's overriding emotion toward me is love. It makes me feel better when I have a bad day, when I don't listen to my inner voice (the Holy Spirit) like I should and even when I just don't feel like showing up; he still loves me. He's always waiting right were I left off, ready to proceed at my own pace. He shows infinite patience with me and my failures. I count on his compassion when I find myself in need of his mercy. His kindness goes a long way toward helping me to forgive myself my imperfections. With his gentleness and humility, I learn to accept correction when I need it.

I count on all of these things from God. It only stands to reason, that as his servant, he would expect me to extend the same to those around me. So, when I look back over my day yesterday and most especially one hard decision I made, when I second guess myself, all really need to do is ask myself these questions: Did I approach the person with compassion?; Was I gentle yet firm in my words?; Was I patient and forgiving?; Did I show kindness in my delivery?; And above all were my actions done with love? Answering yes to these questions should give me confidence that what I did, though it may have caused pain, was still the right thing to do and in so doing, was in line with my faith and the compass by which I live my life.

Making the right choices is a hard call sometimes, but we still have to show up. We have to show up, obey and then trust enough to let it go and allow God to handle the rest.